Labor Day is an American federal holiday observed on the first Monday in September that pays tribute to the contributions and achievements of American workers.
Labor Day has come to be celebrated by most Americans as the symbolic end of summer. In high society, Labor Day is (or was) considered the last day of the year when it is fashionable to wear white or seersucker.
Forms of celebrating this special holiday include picnics, barbecues, fireworks displays, water sports, athletic events and public art events.
In 1882, Matthew Mcguire, a machinist, first proposed the holiday while serving as secretary of the CLU (Central Labor Union) of New York. Others argue that it was first proposed by Peter J. McGuire of the American Federation of Labor in May 1882, after witnessing the annual labor festival in Toronto, Canada.
Labor Day officially became a federal holiday in 1894, signed into law by President Grover Cleveland.
Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, recorded these words:
“That every man (or woman) should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labor, is the gift of God.” Ecclesiastes 3:13
“Behold that which I have seen; it is good and fitting for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labor that he taken under the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him, for it is his portion. Ecclesiastes 5:18
“Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might, for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave, whither thou goest.”
Moses ends Psalm 90 with these poetic words: “And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.”
It seems every generation enjoys telling the next generation about how hard they worked in their younger days. Many a discourse began with these words, “Why, when I was a boy(or girl)…..”
My late grandfather D.T McCall told me of how he “paddled corn” for a dime-a- day when he was a boy. For my uneducated readers, “paddling corn” involved walking on the lower side of a hillside plow with boat paddle in hand; and setting the broad end of the paddle down beside each corn plant to keep the dirt from covering the corn up as the plow went by.
One of my lifetime favorites, the late Bridgewater Wilburn, told of how, when he was a boy; he and another boy were hired to work for a neighbor for a nickel-a-day.
Mr. Wilburn was well into his eighties when he shared the story with me.
“When the day was over, he gave each of us a nickel,” Mr. Wilburn related. “On the way home, my buddy stopped at the store and spent his whole nickel.”
Then, he hesitated for a moment.
“You know what I did with my nickel?” he asked.
“I don’t have a clue,” I answered.
He reached in his pocket and withdrew a coin, and held it up between his thumb and forefinger.
“I still got it!” he beamed.
That was a hard won, and much prized nickel!
Over the course of my life, I never took issue with many things my late mother said.
But when she stressed the value of a good education to her children, she was often heard to say, “I don’t want you boys to have to have to work as hard as your father did.”
I know she meant well, but there was nothing wrong with how hard my father worked. And we worked with him, side by side, as we were growing up. We toiled with him in the tobacco patches and hay fields. We worked with tired, aching muscles when it was insufferably hot. On many days, the work continued when no one really felt like working.
At age 65, I am considered to be an old man now, by some of the younger generation. But so far, I have not experienced any lingering ill effects from working hard back in my younger days.
I heard a great quote a few years ago which went something like this: “Men work hard to make money so their sons won’t have to face the difficulties that made men out of their fathers.” Now that’s something about which to think.
And since I’m writing about labor, I’d better throw in this time tested line:
“Hard work never killed anybody.” But it did build the greatest nation on the face of the earth.
Unfortunately, time and the winds of change have sent us drifting far from the admonishment of the Apostle Paul, who wrote: “If any would not work, neither should he eat.”
“And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested…from all his work… Genesis 2:2
May you rest from all your labors and enjoy a great Labor Day week!
Copyright 2014 by Jack McCall